The Coalition for Housing and Health is a group of medical, legal, and housing professionals whose mission is to develop actionable steps to address the pressing housing needs of New Yorkers with cancer, renal disease, diabetes, chronic heart disease, and other serious medical conditions. The coalition considers these individuals to be “medically homeless,” as many of their housing needs are directly related to their health conditions. For example, people with cancer who lose housing because their illness has cost them their jobs, and who do not qualify for existing housing programs, would be considered “medically homeless.”
What Needs to Be Addressed
An important but unaddressed aspect of New York City’s affordable housing crisis is the need for housing by those with serious or chronic medical conditions. These individuals are often overlooked by the Department of Homeless Services and other city and state agencies, which may be unable to house them due to their health status and medical needs. Even when placed in shelters, temporary housing, or permanent housing, individuals with poor health may suffer in substandard or unstable conditions, living with fundamental structural problems, overcrowding, or threats of eviction. Unmet housing needs are significant predictors of missed clinic appointments and worsening conditions, impacting health outcomes and increasing healthcare costs, most significantly with lengthy and avoidable hospital readmissions. Moreover, people dealing with serious illness have a decreased ability to advocate for their housing needs.
What Response Is Necessary
There is a major need to establish an accessible and available continuum of housing support for New Yorkers with cancer, renal disease, diabetes, chronic heart disease, and other serious medical conditions.
The support required is twofold:
- financial — because there are so few housing options that are truly affordable for this group
- supportive — to provide necessary ongoing services, such as medication management and social work
A housing continuum should include a system of shelters, safe haven shelters for chronically homeless people, respite programs to house people who are too sick for shelters and need supportive places to recover before moving on to more permanent housing, supportive housing for people who require ongoing care, and permanent housing for those who can successfully manage, perhaps with only financial support.